Believe it or not, all of the commotion in this photo -- the huge crowd, the reporter, the man in the top hat -- is caused by what looks like an oversized squirrel in top hat man's arms. It's actually a groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil, and each year on Feb. 2, for more than a century, a groundhog like this one has been brought out before a crowd gathered in Punxsutawney, Pa. As the story goes, if Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter weather. If he doesn't, then it means an early spring is on the way. Well, get ready to start cleaning early and throwing open the windows, because this year the famous groundhog saw no shadow and predicted an early spring. (He did not, however, predict the winner of the upcoming Panthers-Broncos Super Bowl match-up. So the rodent has his predictive limitations.)VIDEO: The Weird History Behind Groundhog Day
Before the big shadow-or-no-shadow reveal, there's a party atmosphere, with singing, and, eventually, more men in top hats.2013: The Groundhog Lied! Early Spring Still Chilly
Said party starts long before sunrise in Punxsutawney, as thousands gather to find out whether winter will linger long or make a hasty retreat.2015: Punxsutawney Phil Predicts Winter Will Linger
Punxsutawney Phil isn't above letting his likeness be used for promotional merchandising purposes. Hopefully he gets a cut of the proceeds.Hibernators Stretch After Long Winter's Nap: Photos
As you might imagine, the men in tuxedos and top hats have a special place in the groundhog day apparatus. They belong to the inner circle, the group in charge of taking care of Phil throughout the year and planning the yearly festivities.What's With All The World Cup-Predicting Animals?
The groundhog day party takes place in Gobbler's Knob, a wooded area a couple of miles outside of Punxsutawney. Here a pair of revelers seeking a souvenir get their picture taken in front of the entrance.Buffalo-Sized Rodent Used Its Teeth Like Tusks
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Actor Bill Murray, no stranger to unusual roles, played the lead in a film that brought even greater fame to groundhog day. The movie "Groundhog Day" starred Murray as a newscaster stuck in a hellish temporal loop, where each day plays itself out exactly as did the previous one. Thanks to the movie, the term "groundhog day" has even entered the lexicon: If you're stuck in a day of repetitive tasks, just tell people you're having a groundhog day -- they'll know what you mean.Famous Faces Turned Into Video Puppets
Sonny and Cher's 1965 single "I Got You Babe" reached more ears than it had in many years when it was featured prominently in "Groundhog Day." Each morning of his awful, repeating day, Bill Murray's character wakes up to the song playing on his alarm clock. "I Got You Babe" hit #1 in the U.S. and U.K. in the summer of 1965, the same year this groovy photo was taken.VIDEO: How Music Affects Your Brain
Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks or marmots. They're the largest members of the squirrel family and can climb trees, as well as swim. They'll typically weigh about 13 pounds (6 kilograms) and hibernate in underground burrows after the first frost. They'll eat grasses, plants, fruits and even tree bark.Rodents Show Empathy For Loved Ones In Pain
National Park Service
Here's a groundhog preparing to retreat into its burrow.How To Tell If A Hamster Is Truly Happy
Finally, of course, we could be forgiven for wondering about the accuracy of the "predictions" made by everyone's favorite furry meteorologist. Is Phil a reliable indicator of continuing winter drudgery vs. the flowering of an early spring? There's a reasonable data sample from which to draw, as Phil and his various incarnations have been at this game for more than 100 years, starting in 1887. His predictions are on the money about 39 percent of the time, according to LiveScience. Does that mean the little fella doesn't know what he's doing? We could ask him, but it's doubtful we'd understand his answer. And, anyway, where's the fun in holding him accountable?Adorable Animals You Just Want To Kiss: Photos
Punxsutawney Phil has betrayed us.
The prognosticating groundhog didn’t see his shadow this year. We were supposed to have an early spring, but look at the smirk on that rodent’s face…he’s winking! Phil lied!
Indeed, despite the vernal equinox ushering in the start of spring on March 20, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center has forecast at least two more weeks of colder-than-normal temperatures for most of the nation east of the Rocky Mountains.
A hardcore high-pressure system is loitering in the Arctic and allowing chilly northern air to lash the southern latitudes. Much of the eastern United States has a high probability of cold weather until April and perhaps even longer.
These high-pressure hijinks are the opposite of what happened last year. Our balmy winter and spring last year were caused by a high pressure system that settled in around lower latitudes, according to the Washington Post’s weather blog. This year’s cold is being caused by a similar system that set up shop 2,000 miles north of where it was last year.
Sometime in April, the climate could have an intense mood swing.
Warmer temperatures may come with a vengeance. Following this chilly period, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) latest outlook forecasts a warmer-than-average spring for almost the entire lower 48 states.
The southwest could be especially toasty. NOAA also forecasts that a warm spring will lead into an hot summer. The June through August outlook suggests most of the United States is in for another sweltering summer.
A warm spring and hot summer may be accompanied by continued drought. Most of the United States is forecast to have “equal chances” of above or below average precipitation, with below average precipitation in some of the drought-dessicated Great Plains and Southwest regions.
Farmers and riverboat captains need above average rainfall to recover from last year’s mega-drought. Below average rainfall could lead to another year of failed harvest and higher food prices. What’s more, if the Mississippi River continues to drop for a second year, shipping of the grain that is produced could be blocked and become more expensive.
IMAGE: Famed weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has only one eye open as he prepares to make his annual prediction on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 127th Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2013. An early spring was predicted as Phil did not see his shadow. (Jason Cohn, Corbis)